While “meat science” may not be the most high profile research discipline in the world today, the science that contributes to the production and sustainability of high quality, nutritional meat production is key to the food industry. Throughout Texas and the United States, Texas Tech University’s research involving meat science is well established, particularly as the beef industry is a mainstay in the Lone Star State. Now, Texas Tech´s critically important meat research is having a substantial impact on Australia’s and New Zealand’s beef industry, with the countries´Department of Animal and Food Science in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources using it to improve meat quality and taste.
According to an article by Texas Tech University´s Leslie Miller, Mark Miller, professor and San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo Distinguished Chair in Meat Science, explained that the sharing of meat science research and best practices began in 2005, when an Australian beef industry executive, Rod Polkinghorne, reached out to researchers at the school in search of a viable research partner.
Together, the Miller-Polkinghorne team combined 10 years of working in the Australian beef industry, which has led to a steady increase in meat science interest among the beef industry. In 2012, Silver Fern Farms, the largest beef company in New Zealand, approached the research team to compile research on the taste effects of a grass-fed production. “They came over and interviewed and visited with me and decided this is where they wanted to work,” Miller said. “We put a contract together, they gave a gift of $2 million, and we did a tremendous amount of consumer research on their beef.”
In fact, this research project went on to become a landmark one for the burgeoning meat science industry, according to Travis O’Quinn, senior research associate in the department, and stateside coordinator of the project. “This project was the largest project of its kind ever conducted,” O’Quinn said. “We fed more than 10,000 consumers in the U.S. across 13 different cities. We had very specific numbers we had to meet per session.
After the research was completed, the team was able to take the data and create a grading system that will help the Silver Fern Farms accurately predict the eating satisfaction of each piece of meat they sell.
Research studies of this size and magnitude had never been attempted before in the beef industry. Thanks to these efforts, the team was able to take the data and create a grading system that will help Silver Fern Farms, as well as help further establish meat science as critical to the industry.